A Bird’s Eyeview on Mahabharata


Dear friends on Word Press

I was invited by Dignity foundation, Bangalore and Mumbai to give a talk on Zoom

as against my regular talks which I give from time to time on their premises.

I thought that I might as well archive the same.

I have uploaded a recording of the same here. It may  sound stuttered and staggered for the first two minutes. If you are able to plod through those one hundred seconds then the sound bytes get clearer.

Since the talk runs to an hour, some of you who may not have that kind of time can

Listen to it in bits. However the choice is yours.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1t-wbuzwb36Q_01k79sbp8ZyWy1L8bISj/view?usp=sharing

 

Radhaprathi-spiritual-talk (1)

The Solitary Reapers


https://www.deccanherald.com/opinion/right-in-the-middle/the-solitary-reapers-814761.html

A couple of years ago a small house was rented out in our locale to two women. Within a matter of two weeks, eleven women started living on the premises. The ladies belonged to different age groups, religions and sects. They seemed to be from a neighbouring state. They did not look well off. That explained why they had decided to share one home. The neighbourhood was not exactly pleased with the idea of having such a large population of women amidst their midst. Everyone was on the vigil. After all one needed a concrete evidence to evacuate them from their rented property. However it appeared as if the women were way too decent and busy to take cognizance of the resentment that enveloped them.

There was a total absence of the much expected clamour, chaos and criminal mindset among the ladies. A month passed by. Whenever a maid availed leave, a desperate homemaker would rope in one of the ladies to help her out with her chores. Slowly but surely each one of the women was absorbed as a domestic helper.

They blended seamlessly as indispensable hands in almost every household. Their hardworking and non interfering nature made many of us curious to know more about them. Nevertheless they maintained a stiff upper lip contrary to their tribe.

When we celebrated a festival at our home, we invited the women to offer them the traditional Haldi Kumkum. The women seemed to be taken aback. One of the younger women called me aside and said, “Akka, do not offer us the Haldi Kumkum.” She thumbed out the sacred yellow thread from her blouse furtively and whispered, “All of us are either widows or abandoned women. The yellow thread each one of us wears does what our drunkard husbands did not do; — it protects us from the probing eyes of wicked men. We have come here to work and earn for the upkeep of our families back home. We do not expect anything else. ”

She walked back to her friends who were ready to leave. They reminded me of Wordsworth’s Solitary Reaper. Almost immediately, similar sentimental words from a famous Hindi song came drifted past. “Na main sapna hoon ya koi raaz hoon ek dard bhari awaaz hoon.” ( I am neither a dream nor a secret but a voice filled with melancholy).

I realised that these were worldly wise and independent women who had fenced themselves off intelligently and effectively. I appreciated the way they camouflaged their despair and forged ahead in life and invited them again with renewed fervour.

 

Golden Memories


http://www.teacherplus.org/golden-memories/

Sri Vidya Mandir turned 50 last year and this gave an opportunity for all those associated with the school to share their memories.

Housed in the heart of Malleswaram, the school has separate blocks for the primary section, middle school, and the high school and pre university sections, all located close to each other.

It is hard to believe that what started as a little school with three students, two teachers and a headmistress in a humble home now has more than 3000 students under its wings.

The story of Sri Vidya Mandir is inseparable from the woman who founded it. Leelavathi N, who started her career as a teacher in Madras, fell in love with the profession irreversibly. Marriage brought her to Bangalore and she pursued teaching in a local school. Her keen sense of value education coupled with an inherent love for children made her wonder if she could make a palpable difference in the field of education. The idea of running a school crossed her mind and started to take wings in 1969. Once the spade work was done, she associated with a couple of like-minded parents and formed an Education Society in 1970 and started a school with just three students.

“Making quality education available at affordable costs has been my guiding quotient from day one,” says Leelavathi better known as “Leela miss”. “While I have insisted on discipline, performance and accountability from my students, I have never turned a student away because he/she has not paid the fees,” says the octogenarian.

A couple of years later, owing to the growing numbers of students, Sri Vidya Mandir moved to a makeshift building – a cowshed, opposite the Venugopala Swamy temple in Malleswaram was leased to run the school. While this change gave Leela miss and her students more space, it also brought with it many obstacles and nagging problems. The temple authorities were divided on allowing the school to function in their premises. The dissenting members resorted to unpleasant measures to dislodge the growing institution. An individual with a weaker spirit would have succumbed to the pressure and threats but Leela miss decided to launch a legal battle to retain the space that had been leased out to her formally and legally. It is ironical to note that the lady who had never dreamt of anything except disseminating knowledge was constantly drawn into courtrooms to justify her decision to continue functioning in the new site despite obtaining permission from the concerned authorities. The long-drawn, ugly courtroom battle which went all the way to the Supreme Court, only strengthened Leela miss’ resolve to pursue her original dream of running a model school where she could mould young children into intelligent, responsible and productive citizens.

The school management, her loyal team of teachers and parents who had reposed their faith in her mission stood by her through her toughest moments. Eventually, her decision to fight for the school space proved to be the right one as Leela miss won her battle and became completely free to serve the society by providing quality education.

Once this major obstacle was overcome, there was no looking back. Though the school follows the state syllabus, the teachers ensure that the students have access to different kinds of resources to further their knowledge and are not limited just to the textbook. Chandrika Gowda, headmistress middle school, who has been with Sri Vidya Mandir for four and half decades, has been part of the school’s eventful journey as a well-loved and inspirational teacher. She says, “I do not allow my busy administrative schedule to come in the way of my classes. In fact, I try to conduct as many classes as possible because teaching opens up so many perceptions for both the teacher and the students.”

The school takes pride in creating exclusive workbooks for their kindergarten students every academic year, which lays a sound foundation for the learning years ahead of them. This exercise holds a mirror to the fact that the teaching faculty is willing to unlearn and relearn to upgrade their skills and help the children learn better.

Leela miss, with her able team has surged forth, rejuvenated, to add more feathers to the already established academic hat. Students of Sri Vidya Mandir enjoy equal time to study, play sports and participate in extracurricular activities. Gifted students are encouraged to pursue their talents and are given proper guidance and environment to do so. The students in turn bring their school more laurels individually and collectively.

The year 2000 was particularly special for the school when it presented a cultural program involving hundreds of their students on the occasion of Karnataka Rajyothsava or Karnataka formation day. The students had to practice separately at different venues due to space constraints before performing together on the prestigious occasion. All the pain taken was forgotten when the audience asked for an encore. The students’ performance was such a hit that they performed it on two more occasions on different stages.

This episode is a pointer towards the dedication reflected by the Kempegowda awardee (civilian award given by the Karnataka government) Leela miss and her teachers in whatever they do. The fact that the teaching and non-teaching staff of the school has several decades of service in the institution and have been awarded by both government and non-government bodies speaks for itself.

Sri Vidya Mandir has faced challenges and overcome obstacles to become the school it is today. Despite its success, Leela miss says, “We are happy and grateful to have come thus far but we can achieve more.”

The author is a professor of English and Sanskrit at Jain University, Bangalore. She also freelances for the print media, is a radio artist and writes scripts for television shows. She is also a proud student of Sri Vidya Mandir. She can be reached at prathi2000@rediffmail.com.

An Ode To The Radio


https://storymirror.com/read/story/english/eq9w6vkm/ode-to-the-radio/detail

Fatima a senior citizen remembers her teenage days which were spent in a heavily veiled paternal home. She studied in the local government girls school in fifteenth cross Malleswaram up to the fifth standard and knew a smattering of English and Kannada. Though she could not read much she remembers having a fondness for the Illustrated weekly of India which used to have blow ups in the center page. Though she could not read the magazine she remembers spending a good deal of time looking at the glossy pictures till the next weekly edition came along. Then she would save some pictures for her personal treasury and use some double sheets to wrap the books of her school-going siblings. Her only window to the world was aborted when she tied the knot early and left her paternal home at the tender age of fifteen. Her husband worked as a tinker in a garage and had a small transistor which gave him company for most of the day. Somehow the elders in the household did not encourage playing the radio at home for they thought it was a veritable distraction. Fatima distinctly remembers how she found ever so many excuses which were far and few to go to the garage which was only next door to her home to call her husband for breakfast, lunch and dinner in the hope of listening to a snatch of a song.

It was after a span of two years and one child, her husband realized the claustrophobic existence his wife was leading and took the bold step of bringing the transistor home and allowing his wife to listen to Vividh Bharathi in the privacy of their room during late evenings. Even this small pleasure could not be savoured in full measure because Fatima had to attend to cooking dinner and various household chores. Yet she would drop into the room intermittently and catch up with whatever she could Just when she resigned herself to the life of a thorough homemaker without any window to the world, her husband’s penchant for listening to film music breezed some enthusiasm in her life. In spite of all the restrictions she worked out a way with the help of her husband to listen to the famous Binaca Geet Mala broadcast by radio Ceylon on Wednesdays. Each Wednesday she would come up with a creative idea to keep her rendezvous with Ameen Sayani even if only for ten or fifteen minutes for the next few years. Then she would spend the rest of the week trying to associate some of the names he dropped over the show with the pictures at random she had seen long ago.

Today her home is filled with electronic gadgets, she has ready access to all varieties of media and absolutely no restrictions laid by her family members but they do not appeal to her anymore. Her zeal for film music has dwindled over the years. She admits that whenever she hears the strains of some old melody which she managed to listen to crossing great obstacles bring back a flood of memories in her which leave her cheeks wet.

 

Perceive with Sensitivity and Sensibility


http://www.deccanheraldepaper.com/

War can only precipitate two things in any age and place – death and destruction. When two mighty powers are at loggerheads with each other the lives of the innocent are at stake, no matter to which camp they belong to. Besides appearances can be deceptive and so can perceptions about ideologies.

The third act of the play Veni Samharam written by Bhatta Narayana has a very thought provoking prelude which discusses this syndrome peculiar to human beings. The dramatist employs irony to show the cruelty and the futility of war. Rudhirapriya and Vasagandha, the demon couple, have a very domestic conversation, revolving around the war of Kurukshetra where they discuss about storing the blood and flesh of great warriors who died on either side which will save them the trouble from scavenging for food in the coming months. Though the talk appears to be insensitive and gruesome, a little observation reveals that the conversation of the couple is only reflecting their natural state of mind whereas the fighters on the battlefield, trained and heroic men were behaving like barbarians killing one another in the name of war.

The sensitivity of the so called insensitive trolls  is highlighted further when they point out how the bereaved mother Hidimba who lost her only son Ghatotkacha was consoling Subhadra who happened to be sailing on the same boat  having lost her only son Abhimanyu. The ability of the Rakshasas to empathise the sorrow of the grief stricken mothers impartially speaks in volumes about their compassion, a quality rarely attributed to their kind. It is the author’s subtle way of saying that any war finally punishes doting and affectionate mothers who may send their sons to war voluntarily or otherwise. No one can efface the scorched souls of the kith and kin of the dead heroes who face the brutal brunt of war.

When we perceive with sensibility and sensitivity we  will not only realise about the futility of war but also understand that popular perceptions about typecasting and role play may not always be spot on.

 

True Love is Immeasurable


http://www.deccanheraldepaper.com/

We promise God money, gifts and sometimes harsh penance as a token of our thanksgiving for fulfilling our wishes. We praise, clothe, feed and entertain God as we see fit.

A lot of us who go out of the way to please God simply forget that God – – our creator does not expect anything from us either in cash or kind. We are only expected to extend sincere affection towards our maker and he will take care of all our needs.

An incident from the Bhagavatha Purana reiterates this viewpoint. Satyabhama, the spouse of Krishna, once lost her husband to Narada in a game of dice. The distressed wife beseeched the celestial sage to let go of her husband.

She offered to give gold that equaled the weight of her dear husband. The sage agreed to alter his condition. Accordingly, Satyabhama sheepishly poured out the details of the awkward bet to the king of Dwaraka.

Then she requested him to sit on one plate of the balance. She placed all her jewellery on the other plate of the scale. The gold did not measure up to the weight on the other side. Then she ordered that the gold from the household and then even the treasury.

To her despair, she found that her best attempts failed. At that point of time Krishna gently told Satyabhama to seek help from his senior wife Rukmini. Satyabhama nurtured envy towards the said co-wife and generally steered clear of her. Yet, in the given circumstances, she approached Rukmini in order to redeem their husband.

Though the senior queen was aghast to hear what had transpired, she rushed to the spot. When she saw the scale in a state of gross imbalance, she quickly plucked a leaf from the Tulsi plant and placed it reverentially on the gold uttering the lord’s name.

Lo and behold! The plate holding the lord rose high immediately. Krishna helped himself out with a knowing smile that said it all. Immediately, Satyabhama felt ashamed but also felt enlightened. She realised that true love is immeasurable in worldly ways.

Musings on a Maidless Morning


https://www.deccanherald.com/opinion/right-middle/musings-maidless-morning-721538.html

Every time our maid takes off without compunction or notice for valid and invalid reasons, I promise myself to buy myself an Alladin’s lamp. The genie would solve all my problems. However that has remained in the domains of wishful thinking till date. I have often wondered if the brainy Jeeves could materialize and shimmer in to do my chores with the same élan with which he helps his young master to sail out of troubles. Yet the mere memory of his subtly sly ways to achieve his agenda at any cost makes me think twice about my choice.

I remember what Letitia  Baldridge once said, “ When in doubt look what everyone else is doing.” Since I know that practically everyone in my radar is bearing crosses of different densities on maid miseries, I practically have nowhere to look.  So, I decided to travel down the aisles of history and literature and tried to figure out what has gone wrong collectively with our generation of employers of domestic help? Why is it that we are not able to awaken a spirit of loyalty amongst our helpers like our ancestors did?

We certainly do not expect the likes of the nursemaid like Panna Dhai who quietly replaced her own bundle of joy in the place of the baby prince in waiting of Mewar only to be killed mercilessly. Nor do we expect a reliable slave like Jamal ud din Yaqut who stood by Razia Sultana through thick and thin.  I am sure that none of us expect the cruel alacrity displayed by Malik Kafur in the movie Padmavat when he killed two royals in response to a question that was mouthed in half jest by his brand new master.

Following feudal system or enslaving individuals or practising bonded labour is completely unthinkable, for the law of the land forbids it. Movies, soap operas and novels which showcase “old faithfuls” do not seem to have inspired the blue collared lot, nor has all the entertainment been  able to educate employers on the secret of retaining employees successfully. Common sense quotients like regular increments, generous gifts, timely loans and advance payments do not seem to change their ideas of accountability.

House helps have become a tribe who can be loved or hated but can never be ignored. It will certainly do us a world of good when we accept that they are also people like us and they do need to take off. Never mind if they disappear way too often. So the long and short of it is to just figure out a way to function well in their absence. Then, watch out for Zen like calmness that will ensconce your person once you get into the Swalpa Adjust Madkoli mode!

 

To Wax Or Wane is the Question


http://www.deccanheraldepaper.com/

All of us know that the waxing and waning of the moon is a visual occurrence as the result of the satellite revolving around our planet.

It is interesting to note that the Skanda Purana has an interesting take on the subject which aims at educating its readers to show due respect to the modesty and independence of women. The handsome and accomplished moon personified as Somadeva had married the beautiful twenty seven stellar sisters of the cosmos.

He lived a happy and contented life till he coveted and abducted Tara, his guru Brishaspathi’s wife. The gods waged a war to redeem their preceptor’s spouse. Somadeva trounced them in a trice. The Devas approached Lord Shiva for help.

Brahma the creator who was witnessing this pantomime foresaw a great disaster. Hence, he advised Somadeva to surrender to Lord Shiva and apologise to Brihaspathi and send the pregnant Tara back to her husband. (The question mark over the patriarchy that dangled over the unborn child is another story.)

The war-weary Somadeva who was stricken with leprosy saw better sense now and did as he was bidden. The once haughty lunar deity became penitent and took up rigorous penance and appeased Lord Shiva. As a result he was cured of his deadly disease but was cursed for life to wax and wane every fortnight.

The Lord in his superior wisdom hoped to alert mankind that one can never get away from karma no matter what the status or penance quotient. Apparently the story is meant to be a subtle warning to all those people who lust for other people’s spouses, wealth and belongings, that they have to pay a price for it.

Apart from the punishment factor that awaits the wrongdoer, the tale also underlines the act that women are not commercial commodity who can be taken, used and rejected at the whims and fancies of the mindless and the powerful.

The Skanda Purana points out that our personalities will wane like the moon when we indulge in unethical debauchery and cause unwarranted pain to others. All the same, if we are suitably chastened and repent for our misdeeds, we can reinforce our intrinsic values. This, in turn, will help our personalities wax like the moon.

Sankranthi Shopping


Published in student edition of Deccan Herald dated 14th January 2019

The ushering in of the “Uttarayana Punyakala” popularly known as Sankranthi, is feted variously across the Indian continent. Yet the concept of the celebration is much the same across the nation. The largely agrarian population is glad that the hard winter days are coming to an end and it is time for them to reap the well deserved harvest of their sweat and toil.

Sankranthi times in our country invariably spell a lot of prayer, fervour and joy not necessarily in that order. The thought of breaking away from the normal routine of life and indulging in a faithful and felicitous celebrations have kept the Indian race on their toes. Preparations for festivals begin days ahead of the red lettered day in order to gear up for the occasion.

Long ago, when supermarkets and malls had still not caught up with large sections Indian population, the barter system was the order of the day. People seemed to personify the essence of Khalil Gibran’s thought process when he said,

“To you the earth yields her fruit and you shall not want if you but know how to fill your hands.

It is in exchanging the gifts of the earth that you shall find abundance and be satisfied.”

Farmers generally harvest sugarcane, rice, wheat and a couple of pulses besides a variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables during this season. In the past they would take stock of their resources and utilize their excesses to get themselves their requisite necessities. Over a period of time bartering gave way to small time trading when people used to sell their goods and buy the things they needed. Usually they indulged in spending their money at wholesale markets which offered them the best bargains.

Then, just like everything else in life the process of shopping metamorphosed from the friendly neighbourhood kirana shops to departmental stores, supermarkets and eventually to massive mall which claim to sell wares for all your needs under one roof.

Though the method of shopping for our needs, comforts and luxuries has come a long way from the days we bartered to the present day credit card culture, the concept of shopping is pretty much the same. There was a time when the ladies of the house would forgo their siestas at least a fortnight before Sankranthi to organise themselves for the big day. They had to shell and roast peanuts, gram and gingelly seeds, slice copra, granulate jaggery and fashion cubes and dolls from sugar syrup and stock them up to be distributed among friends and relatives on the day of the festival.

These days working women in cities find time scarce to indulge in the long drawn process. This certainly does not mean that people do not celebrate the festival in the traditional manner anymore. The milling crowds in the markets and malls during festival season selling the quintessential “ellu bella” in neat packets or little boxes besides variously crafted sugar cubes and dolls is proof enough that tradition is very much alive. If one is willing to shell out a little more money one can actually place orders for customized products which even include neatly chopped sugarcane sticks. Similarly, if one is running short of time or simply does not feel like cooking up an orgy, a horde of restaurants, food courts and smalltime catering units cook and serve the customary Pongal, vada along with the conventional fare.

People shop for the specific needs of the festival besides picking up clothes, furniture, electronic appliances or anything else they fancy during these times as shrewd retailers and dealers cash in on the sentiments of the people by offering discounts, freebies and exchange offers.

This changing trend which has retained the core value of the festivities has been possible because the average Indian likes to be rooted to his culture but does not quite mind the idea of using modern facilities and technology to serve his purpose. Happy Sankranthi!